It was only a matter of time before Benedict’s goodness was noticed by many. Goodness is a magnet, the power of which overwhelms even those who believe they are not looking for it. Soon, then, Benedict felt smothered with public attention as the pressure on him increased by the day, distracting him in his attempt to live a calm and centered spiritual life. He knew he had to find a space more suitable for serious reflection and a meaningful life. So he left the village and his nurse and went to live in a cave in Subiaco.
Cave dwelling was not an especially unusual kind of retreat for intensely spiritual persons of the time. It is not surprising then that Romanus, a monk from a nearby monastery, was deeply impressed with the sincerity of Benedict’s spiritual search. To mark the legitimacy of that intensity, the old monk clothed Benedict in the style established at the time for religious figures and supported him in his pursuit of the spiritual life. He lowered food down the side of the mountain to him. He guarded Benedict’s sanctuary by telling no one of his presence in the area. Most of all, he took care of Benedict at great inconvenience to himself. The food he brought him came from his own plate and he left his monastery to care for Benedict without even asking his abbot for permission to do so.
Without Romanus, Benedict could not have lived the life he did; without Benedict, perhaps, Romanus would never have known the fullness of his own.
The lessons for us and our time from a situation such as this are many:
We all need space and time away from the pressures of our successes.
Silence is an important part of thought.
A talent for solitude is a measure of a person’s self-development.
What we nurture in life is what we are and what we give the world.